Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tutorial: men's button-down shirt to ladies (or maternity or nursing) summer top

This is an easy and thrifty way to make a comfortable, roomy summer top that would work great for maternity or nursing.  You start with a mens button down shirt, which can usually be found in a good thrift store for around a dollar.  You will also need a coordinating fabric to make the straps and bands.  I have cut up another shirt for these bands on other tops (see previous post), and for this particular shirt I am using cotton quilting scraps.  You will also need binding for the armholes.  You can make this from your coordinating fabric or use purchased bias tape.

You do not need a serger to complete this project.  However, as with most anything you sew, using the serger will improve the quality of your finished garment.  Most patterns and tutorials do not include instructions for the serger, but I am going to do so.  If you don't have a serger, skip the serger steps.  Also,  I did not go into lots of detail, assuming you know how to apply binding, etc.  If anything is not clear or if I should break it down further into more details, let me know.

Measure your chest, above your bust, from armpit to armpit
and get someone to help you do the same across your back.  These measurements are for making the top bands.

I cut my front band at 12" by 3"
and the back band 14" by 5"
If I wasn't sergering these, I would cut them about 1/2" shorter and narrower.
I like having the back band be a little wider than the front.  You really could make these bands wider or narrower, according to your preference.
 I cut my shoulder straps at 3" by 10"  HOWEVER, I have previously made and fitted this pattern for me and so I know for certain that these will not be too short.  I would advise you to cut yours longer.  They can always be trimmed if they are too long.
Cut your shirt like this:

Then you can serge all 4 sides of each band and strap as well as the cut edges of the shirt.

Then take these pieces to the ironing board and fold over 1/4" and press.  Do this on all sides of each band and strap.  Then fold each piece in half, and iron again.
Next, apply bias binding to the armholes.

You may need to trim the top of your shirt a bit more (notice I did) if the armholes are way too deep.  My shirt now has 5" between the top edge and the bottom of the armhole at this point.  We can adjust this further when taking in the side seams later.

Then, sew a long basting stitch along the top edges of the shirt.  Gather the shirt to fit the bands, and pin in place.  Then sew.
Check for fit at this time.  I cut my bands with just enough slack to fold both sides of each over narrowly towards the inside and stitch.  If you didn't, then you can enclose the outer edges of the bands inside the straps....that is why we didn't sew them yet.
Once your bands are complete, it is time for the straps.  If you do not have a dress form, then you can either pin the straps in place and try on your top until you get your straps to the proper length.  Or, you can have a loved one assist and pin the straps to length for you.
As I said, I have finished the sides of my bands and so attached my straps to the inside, so I sew my straps closed first and then sew them to the inside of my top.  If you attach the straps to encase your bands, you will leave them open, pin in place at the outer edges of the bands, and then sew them to the blouse and close them at the same time.
Now you are almost done!  Try on your top again.  The armholes on mine are too low, showing my bra under my arms.  And the shirt is too wide.  So now it is time to take in.  Try top on and pin the slack under the armholes to determine your seam line.  Then sew this seam, starting at the armhole where you marked your fit with pins, and sloping in an a-line to the hem of the shirt.  If you are making this for maternity you will make this a line slope towards the original side seam, leaving more room for you and your baby.  If you are not, then you will probably want to take in more, although this top is comfy being roomy at the bottom.
When you are happy, you will have to cut and remove the bulk at these seams.  I sew my seam on the inside of the shirt and once I am satisfied with the seam placement, I run it under the serger to trim the excess and neatly finish the edges at once.  If you don't have a serger, you can finish this seam in whatever way you want, although what I would do is sew a french seam; that is, sew the seam on the outside of the shirt and then encase that seam in a second seam line sewn on the inside.
And now you have a cute, comfy, summer top that I hope will be your new favorite!

Have fun making these for yourself.  This is one my original designs; do not sell what you make from my tutorials without my permission, please and thank you!  My etsy shop will be opening soon.

This is the first tutorial I have made, so please let me know if anything is not clear. 


KC said...

That's a cute top. My husband has a few shirts with ruined collars and I've been looking for a good way to reuse them. I think I'll try this. Thanks!

casserole said...

That's such a cute top for summer!! I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


KJ said...

Found you via craft gossip. You run a great blog. love this project. Very resourceful, but stylish at the same time.

TJ said...

This is a great idea, and hopefully not too complicated for an intermediate sewer like me! Happy creations, tj in germany

Anonymous said...

hello there thanks for your grat post, as usual ((o:

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